Why is Hayek a conservative

Crash in the Hayek Society (1)
Why Hayek really wasn't a conservative
Reasons for leaving the Hayek Society

The Friedrich-August-von-Hayek-Gesellschaft e.V. is an association for the promotion of ideas in the spirit of Hayek. The focus is on the idea of ​​a “constitution of freedom”. (Leitmotif of the Friedrich August von Hayek Society)

"Why I am not a conservative" (F. A. von Hayek, 1960, in: The Constitution of Freedom)

Anyone who has observed the activities of the Friedrich August von Hayek Society for a number of years will probably have noticed this: Although the Hayek Society has set itself the honorable goal of cultivating liberal ideas, communicating them to the outside world and promoting people To win the idea of ​​political liberalism, society often seemed strangely inward, not to say elitist and not very sociable. There was a tendency to see the glass of liberal ideas in society half empty instead of half full, they believed themselves to be part of a tiny circle of remaining liberals in a sea of ​​socialists, and whoever pointed out that liberal ideas were quite widespread, but not developed, was mocked rather than heard. The fact that commentators from all areas of the media landscape make fun of political liberalism was interpreted as an oil-speckle-like spread of socialist thought and not so much as a conceptless social analysis that lacks a systematic localization of the meaning of freedom - a problem that one would have could tie in if one had sought the connection instead of withdrawing into his circle and thus incurring the accusation of sectarianism.

At the same time, something completely different was observed and, on a superficial examination, initially perhaps not associated with the Hayek Society: namely that a scene has developed under the label of liberalism, especially on the Internet, but also in certain magazines under the label of liberalism has nothing to do and which, in its eloquent cultivation of intolerance and demarcation, is rather opposed to the enlightenment ideals of liberalism and the open society.

Anyone who has noticed these two tendencies only too fleetingly may have missed the frequent equality of the names and publications that appear here and there for a while. One could have believed - somewhat naively, of course - for a while that there were two unconnected scenes. But at the latest with the reaction to an actually harmless FAS article by the chairwoman of the Hayek Society Karen Horn on May 17, 2015 penned, especially those whose names appear in this as in that scene, you have to know better.

Of course, it was known that there were many quite conservative members in Hayek society. But only on closer observation does it become clear with what vehemence many of these members claim the right to express not liberal, but explicitly conservative positions in the name of the Hayek Society in public. This is surprising when the Hayek Society is dedicated to spreading the idea of ​​freedom in the sense of Hayeks, and when Hayek explicitly and unequivocally did not see himself as a conservative, but as a liberal. Even more, anyone who knows Hayek's position on this knows that he did not see conservatism as something that can be located a little to the right of liberal standpoints, but rather that he described right, left and liberal as the corners of a triangle. The latter implies that liberalism is not to be found on a right-left continuum, gradually deviating from conservatism, but that liberalism is something fundamentally different from conservatism and even fundamentally incompatible. Hayek was pragmatic and tolerant of conservatism because he saw - albeit more coincidental - similarities in concrete institutional reform proposals. But he left no doubt that conservatism, as a compass for developing such proposals, is misleading when in doubt. Why then do you have to claim a society that bears this person's name for an idea from which this person has expressly distanced himself?

The fact that Hayek’s idea of ​​freedom suffers if it is confused with conservatism is made clear, among other things, by an apparently insignificant detail in the criticism made of the FAS article by Karen Horn. Specifically, the demand expressed in this article for the abolition of spouse splitting is confused with a "left" position, although it has nothing to do with the left collectivism criticized by Hayek, among other things, even if an isolated abolition of spouse splitting leads to an increase in the average tax rate Consequences - because such an abolition can of course be designed to be revenue-neutral. This reveals the purely conservative provenance of this criticism, and that of a demand that is essentially derived from liberal ideas, which to establish in no way requires that one endorses it. But more than that: with the help of the conservative criticism of a liberal demand, the lack of socio-political consensus of its author with the principles of the Hayek Society is diagnosed.

That is a lot of stuff, and yet it is still harmless: Because the accusation of insufficient delimitation to the left linked to this example is formulated by the author Erich Weede under the title "Landed in the left camp" in a magazine of all things, which lacks any delimitation from positions who are very far to the right - so far to the right that this magazine has repeatedly been targeted by intelligence officials. The observer asks himself: what is this supposed to signal to us? Why does an author who is known to have access to organs like the FAZ at all times, writes something like this in “Junge Freiheit”? In the name of the Hayek Society, there is a sharp and polemical demarcation from a clearly conservative socio-political position versus a completely legitimate consideration of a liberal family policy that is wrongly assigned to left collectivism, and all of this in an organ that consciously points to a demarcation refrained from right-wing groups, if one puts it cautiously. What does this have to do with liberalism?

Of course, one can argue about spouse splitting, gay marriage and so many other things within the framework of a liberal association like the Hayek Society - what else? But why is one demanding the resignation of a chairperson who represents positions that are in no way incommensurate with liberal ideas, but at the same time accuses her of a “narrowed understanding of liberalism” because she is in favor of a demarcation from not liberal, but on the contrary national - strengthens conservative, intolerant and sometimes even openly right-wing extremist positions - although such a demarcation should be completely natural in a liberal society? Or is it not? A hitherto inexperienced observer who still does not want to admit what is hidden behind it should read the commentary "Hayek, Haughty, Fall and Beautiful Legs" by Andrà © Lichtschlag in the magazine "Eigenümlich Frei" from 15. Recommended July 2015, even if it really isn't a pleasure to read.

Certainly, a liberal constitutional state has to endure it within the framework of relatively wide borders, if there are scenes in which gays or asylum seekers are annoyed, when the very left of the party “Die Linke” with some very right from the Hayek society of all places Stand up for Putin and his backward-looking right-wing collectivism, and when they complain - certainly to the delight of Putin and other like-minded people - about the "mass media of EU, gender and NATO propagandists" (again Lichtschlag, ibid.). A liberal constitutional state has to endure it when the "establishment", the "political ruling caste", the "quantity media" and the "block media" are shot out of the protection of conspiracy-theoretical isolation and when one adopts the term "lying press" makes as if we were living in the very same contemporary Russia, whose president and his cynical lies are shown so understanding for inexplicable reasons given his personal suffering at the downfall of a totalitarian empire.

As I said: a liberal constitutional state has to endure all of this. But an association that has committed itself to spreading and maintaining a free and open society, whose foundations include a liberal attitudes in connection with tolerance and intellectual modesty in Popper's sense as well as the knowledge of one's own fallibility, such an association must not tolerate such a thing in their ranks. That has just as little place there as bacon at the barbecue of a vegan association, and the often read assertion that what cannot be liberal does not, of course, catch on. Because tolerance ends at intolerance, as Karl Popper once again put it. A liberal association not only does not have to tolerate intolerance, it must not tolerate it. In her writings and pronouncements she must not demand self-criticism and enlightenment restraint from other people and groups, but in and of herself exemplify the opposite.

Ultimately, it remains completely obscure to the observer why conservatism must be cultivated in the context of a liberal association all over the world, and it remains even more obscure why in this context any demarcation to the far right is mocked as "political correctness". An association that allows such a thing in its ranks cannot serve the ideals of political liberalism; it cannot credibly convey to anyone that the great freedom that is realized in one part of the world today arises from the thoughts of enlightenment and theory of political liberalism - those thoughts that society had once made it its task to convey and cultivate. Instead, such an association works unintentionally with those who seek to discredit political liberalism and even openly ridicule it, be it out of bad will or - much more often - out of ignorance - as in a recently published comment by Dieter Schnaas in Wirtschaftswoche (July 24, 2015). It would be such an infinitely meritorious task to counteract this ignorance by proving to be compatible and convincing with the better arguments on the clear basis of openness to the world, tolerance and philanthropy - on the basis of liberalism.

Categories Regulatory PolicyTagsFriedrich August von Hayek, Hayek Society, Liberalism